The founder and chairman of Alibaba – the Chinese e-market – is retiring at the age of 55.
The charismatic former English teacher, who founded the internet company 20 years ago in a shared apartment, is stepping aside from the day-to- day running of the business to spend more time on his other great loves in life – his philanthropic works, education and his family.
Ma, as China’s richest man, does not have to worry about paying the bills.
According to the last estimate by Forbes, he has a net worth of $ 38 4bn (£ 31. 1bn) thanks to the phenomenal success of Alibaba , though the changing of the guard at the top has investors in the US-listed firm worried.
At a time of slowing domestic sales amid the US-China trade war, Alibaba will be run solely by Daniel Zhang whose appointment was announced last year.
Ma said of him: “He has the logic and critical thinking skills of a super computer, a commitment to his vision, the courage to wholeheartedly dare to take on innovative business models and industries of the future.”
He has little of the charisma of Ma – known for a flamboyant approach to get attention.
Market analysts say his biggest challenge will be finding new areas of growth – with Alibaba recently entering the music-streaming sector.
Unusually, investors will be watching Ma’s farewell party speech in the 80, 000 – capacity Hangzhou Olympic Sports stadium for any clue on whether he will retain a management role.
Ma has plenty to celebrate – despite the sales slowdown.
Alibaba has grown to become Asia’s most valuable listed company, with a current market capitalization of $ 460 bn (£ 373 bn) employing more than 100, 000 people.
It has expanded into financial services, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.